September 2006

Indian Ocean
presented by ArthaSoft Innovations
September 1, 2006Meadowvale TheatreMississauga
Making a Splash
by Tony Shivpershad
The evening began with emcee Neville D’Souza declaring that he hesitates to call what we are about to witness a 'concert'. It would in fact be an 'experience'. With that, the four talented musicians took the stage. As they got settled behind their respective instruments, bassist Rahul Ram told the audience that this was their first time ever in Canada. It was also the finale of a long tour which saw them play over 40 shows in the United States. Rahul informed us that they were “tired, but happy to be going home”.

Guitarist Sushmit Sen kicked off the night’s first song, "Desert Rain", with a guitar solo. Drums, bass, and tabla soon joined in. Then the strong, earthy vocals of percussionist Asheem Chakravarty were added to the mix.

It has been well documented that Indian Ocean’s sound transcends musical genres. What was evident throughout this show was that the personalities of the artists creating the sounds were as different from each other as the varied musical styles that they are renowned for blending. This is clear in their music as well as characterized in their onstage personas.

Sushmit sat on a stool, with a leg propped up on a speaker, holding his guitar. Most of the night his eyes were closed, a serene tight-lipped smile on his face, as his fingers raced up and down the fretboard creating bubbling guitar runs that flowed like a stream. Content to let his guitar speak for him, he never uttered a word. His polar opposite was Rahul, who spent the night on his feet dancing, singing, swaying, and sharing his quick wit with the audience between songs. Amit Kilam was a paradox all on his own, he looked mellow, as he played rock n’ roll style drums. While Amit and Rahul did add a lot of vocals, it was percussionist Asheem Chakravarty who took charge of most of the lead vocals, which were powerful and melancholic, while he sat cross-legged on a riser behind his row of tabla drums.

Rahul Ram, Amit Kilam and Sushmit Sen

Asheem Chakravarty
Five songs into the show, Rahul’s exuberant pounding on the bass proved too much as his A string broke. He replaced the string right on stage as the other members played an extended instrumental piece. Finally, with Sushmit turning to check on Rahul, and with the bass player nodding that he was ready, he jumped right in, and fit as tight as if the replacing of the string had been a rehearsed part of the show. This had the audience applauding, which turned to clapping to the beat.

Not long after, Asheem left his riser and joined the other players at centre stage as he scatted along to the music. Then he turned, knelt in front of Rahul, and started to beat on the bass’s fretboard, as Rahul continued to slap the strings. This led to a mesmerizing exchange between Amit on his drum kit, and Asheem drumming on Rahul’s bass.

Eventually they played their biggest hit, "Bandheh" which was featured in the Indian movie, Black Friday. The song takes on a new dimension when heard live. The humanitarian lyrics of the song had Rahul quip that perhaps the U.S. president should listen to it.

Then the band announced that due to the venue’s time constraints they would perform only two more songs. This had the audience shouting song titles that they were still waiting to hear. It was settled, and the next song was "Maa Rewa" — the story of the beauty of the Narmada river and the planned destruction of it. Sushmit stood for the first time all night during this song, which turned into a long percussive jam towards the end. The final song of the night was the anthemic "Kandisa", which is a 2000-year-old Syrian Catholic hymn performed in the ancient Aramaic language.

The band was never pleased with the mix coming from their monitor speakers, but luckily for the crowd, the house mix sounded great. At the end of the night the emcee’s promise had been fulfilled, this show was an 'experience'. Indian Ocean promised that although this was their first visit to Canada, it wouldn’t be their last.

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Tony Shivpershad
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